At the June 20 council meeting following the referendum defeat of the prison proposal, Mayor Dan Ashton lamented that a small number of “no” voters had dismissed a unique opportunity that might have transpired for Penticton.
A total of 4,302 voters had rejected the presence of a remand centre/jail in their community. The BC Liberals effectively asked us if we wanted a prison. After careful consideration at our referendum and several other public venues, the citizens of Penticton said no. Why can’t Mr. Ashton accept that and move on?
Given the extremely narrow margin by which Dan Ashton was re-elected as mayor of Penticton, one expected a more statesmanlike inaugural speech from him at the first meeting of the new council on Dec. 5.
But no, he insisted on taking another jab at those who rejected the prison. Mayor Dan Ashton needs to be reminded that only 3,124 voters gave him his current mandate. The number of voters who said no to a prison far outweighed those who chose Dan Ashton as their mayor, yet that new “low” number of votes in his favour is now seemingly unimportant to him.
Of course, economic strategy ideas may be advanced by individual anti-prison citizens, as Mayor Ashton invited in his speech. But let’s not forget that under Mr. Ashton’s aegis, millions have been awarded to the Chamber of Commerce over the past three years for the delivery of economic development and tourism services.
Where was the accountability and transparency around those contracts, which were funded by Penticton taxpayers? Economic development is the job of elected officials and staff, contracted or otherwise, and residents have a right to expect better than a prison as the biggest idea to emerge from that particular “think tank”, especially when public dollars are footing the bill.
Taunting those who did not agree with his stance on the prison was a poor start for a mayor with a significantly weakened mandate. Dan Ashton’s job is to foster the public interest and the communal well-being of Penticton residents (and those in the RDOS should he be re-elected as its chair). It is not to be the local agent for delivering a prison agenda for the BC Liberals or any other political party, to the detriment of a more positive economic and social future in Penticton and our region.